AIPAC seeks to oust popular Jewish US congressman
The American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is continuing its push to defeat progressive candidates, with its next focus on the upcoming primaries on 2 August in Michigan, where it is targeting incumbent Andy Levin, a popular two-term Jewish congressman in suburban Detroit.
The move has come as a surprise to many, mainly because the congressman is not known for speaking out against Israel. He has on occasion criticised Israeli policy, which might have been enough for AIPAC to get involved in the race.
Through its super PAC, United Democracy Project, AIPAC has put more than $US 3 million into attack ads against Levin.
Last year, Levin irked AIPAC for introducing a bill supporting a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians and that would prevent Israel from using US tax money to expand settlements in the West Bank.
He has also defended representatives Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota when they have been accused of anti-Semitism for criticising Israel and for supporting the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement.
A recent poll has Levin trailing by 27 points against his opponent, Haley Stevens, a non-Jew who has apparently met AIPAC's criteria for support of Israel.
Fortunately for Levin, a number of progressive lawmakers are standing by him as he heads into the final stretch of his re-election campaign. Senator Elizabeth Warren held a rally for him on Sunday, and Senator Bernie Sanders plans to hold a joint rally with him and Rashida Tlaib on Friday.
Meanwhile, a group of Jewish legislators have signed a joint letter showing their support for Levin.
J Street, a centrist Jewish lobby group, has thrown their support behind Levin in this race, though their $US 700,000 ad campaign to boost Levin is only a fraction of the financial resources of AIPAC for this race.
It might seem odd that the largest pro-Israel lobby group would be pouring millions of dollars into a campaign to oust a Jewish member of Congress who is generally considered pro-Israel based on his voting record.
AIPAC's determination to affect the outcome of this race possibly speaks to what it sees as a threat from the growing influence of progressives – even those who are only occasionally critical of Israel.
Also surprising to many has been AIPAC's recent focus on defeating Donna Edwards in Maryland last week. The lobby group, through its PACs, put $US 6 million toward helping her opponent Glenn Ivey get elected. Both candidates have rarely spoken out about Israel, though Edwards has voted "present" on a handful of votes related to the issue.
Though AIPAC gets its funding from a variety of sources, it has been reported by Haaretz that some of its biggest donors (including to its PACs) are Republican "megadonors" who made their contributions at the beginning of this primary cycle.